Saturday, 21 September 2013

My top 5 books read this summer by Sophie Duffy

This afternoon I have a bonus selection of top 5 bonus read this summer from Sophie Duffy, author of The Generation Game and This Holey Life.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. 

This is Kate Atkinson at the top of her game. I have read and loved every one of her novels and she always surprises and moves me. Her turn of phrase is both comforting Alan Bennett style, and quirky and startling. The structure of this novel is perhaps what will make this book talked about for a long time. Ingenious. (Oh yes. And she’s funny.)

Canada by Richard Ford

First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.

It was more bad instincts and bad luck that lead to Dell Parsons’ parents robbing a bank. They weren’t reckless people, but in an instant, their actions alter fifteen-year-old Dell’s sense of normal life forever. In the days that follow, he is saved before the authorities think to arrive. Driving across Montana, his life hurtles towards the unknown; a hotel in a deserted town, the violent and enigmatic Arthur Remlinger, and towards Canada itself. But, as Dell discovers, in this new world of secrets and upheaval, he is not the only one whose past lies on the other side of the border.

A beast of a novel. I read it when I was in Canada this summer. It seemed appropriate, even though a fair amount of the narrative takes place in the USA. This is very fine storytelling. We know from the opening sentence what is going to happen and we spend much of the novel, waiting in suspense for the events to unfold. The landscape and characters have stayed with me.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

Mildred Lathbury is one of those 'excellent women' who is often taken for granted. She is a godsend, 'capable of dealing with most of the stock situations of life - birth, marriage, death, the successful jumble sales, the garden fete spoilt by bad weather'. As such, she often gets herself embroiled in other people's lives - especially those of her glamorous new neighbours, the Napiers, whose marriage seems to be on the rocks. One cannot take sides in these matters, though it is tricky, especially as Mildred, teetering on the edge of spinsterhood, has a soft spot for dashing young Rockingham Napier. This is Barbara Pym's world at its funniest and most touching.

I was only introduced to Barbara Pym this year. What a joy! She writes about the minutia of daily living in post-war Britain in a way that reflects the universal themes of life. And lots of cups of tea. I am delighted to have made her acquaintance.

The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst

In the late summer of 1913, George Sawle brings his Cambridge schoolmate--a handsome, aristocratic young poet named Cecil Valance--to his family's modest home outside London for the weekend. George is enthralled by Cecil, and soon his sixteen-year-old sister, Daphne, is equally besotted by him and the stories he tells about Corley Court, the country estate he is heir to. But what Cecil writes in Daphne's autograph album will change their and their families' lives forever: a poem that, after Cecil is killed in the Great War and his reputation burnished, will become a touchstone for a generation, a work recited by every schoolchild in England. Over time, a tragic love story is spun, even as other secrets lie buried--until, decades later, an ambitious biographer threatens to unearth them. 

"The Stranger's Child" is a tour de force: a masterful novel about the lingering power of desire, how the heart creates its own history, and how legends are made.

Another powerhouse of a novel. If you like Bridehead Revisited, then read this book. It covers a long time span, beginning in 1913, covering two world wars, and bringing us up to 2008. It shows the change in class, culture and sexual attitudes, but the thread of the story that begins in a house party one weekend in 1913 weaves throughout. Big cast of characters. Beautiful prose.

The Wedding Diary by Margaret James

Where's a Fairy Godmother when you need one?

If you won a fairy-tale wedding in a luxury hotel, you'd be delighted - right? But what if you didn't have anyone to marry? Cat Aston did have a fiance, but now it looks like her Prince Charming has done a runner.

Adam Lawley was left devastated when his girlfriend turned down his heartfelt proposal. He's made a vow never to fall in love again.

So - when Cat and Adam meet, they shouldn't even consider falling in love. After all, they're both broken hearted. But for some reason they can't stop thinking about each other. Is this their second chance for happiness, or are some things just too good to be true?

What do you do if you have a wedding but no groom? This is a charming, sweet, funny read with engaging main characters and one of the most unlikely fairy godmothers. Should definitely be made into a film!

Tomorrow is the final day of this feature week when Kevin from I Heart.. Chick Lit will be telling us about his top 5 reads of the summer.

1 comment:

  1. Ooh, hugely flattered to be in such great company - thank you, S & S!